There is nothing that brings people together quite like family.
As we travelled all-throughout Morocco we were fortunate enough to meet so many kind Moroccan locals. But, we were even more lucky to spend some time with a Moroccan family. Our homestay introduced us to a side of Moroccan life that we would have never seen without them.
I came across an Airbnb posting in Fez that advertised itself as “Stay with Moroccan family and Save Money.” Saving money? Yes, please! But we also thought it would be fun to have this cultural experience as a part of our travels, especially in Morocco.
Morocco is a family oriented-society. Locals are always looking out for each other as if they shared the same blood. If you take the time to share your time, stories, and food (offer any treats you have to earn major kudos), you too will be treated like family.
And even though we were only able to book one night with the family, we ended up coming back everyday.
So when we arrived in Fez in the middle of the night, we were so happy to stumble on Saida and Hmar’s doorstep.
Lost in Fez
So the story of how we first met Hmar and Saida is actually kinda embarrassing!
We did not get off our bus until after midnight. Luckily, another passenger on the bus let us use their phone to call Saida to let her know we were arriving VERY late. What we didn’t know is that after we called Saida in a panic, she asked her husband Hmar to go look for some lost travellers. Hmar waited for us at the nearest medina entrance.
It was so late and at this point we were desperate to find our homestay for the night. So when we did cross paths with Hmar, we walked right on by as he approached us to try and help. In our defence, he was standing at a taxi stand and we thought he was just offering us a ride!
Of course, we got lost along the way. Even after we found the right street, we had no clue which house number we were looking for. Then here comes Hmar to the rescue. As he chuckles he points at his front door and says, “Here, here.” Saida was waiting on the other side and greeted us with a big hug.
Once we were brought to our room, Saida pointed out that Hmar was the man from before. We felt so bad that we had shrugged him off when he was just trying to help! Some red cheeks for us, but a good laugh for all!
From then on, we knew we were in good hands.
Morocco’s Master Chef
Starting from the crack of dawn, the succulent aromas of Saida’s homemade meals filled every room in the home. We woke up on our first morning to a delicious breakfast of sweet cakes and pastries. It was obvious that Saida was an amazing cook, and we were dying to try one of her speciality recipes. Before we left to explore Fez, we asked Saida, with the help of her translating son Said (Sci-yeed), if we could join her as she cooked dinner. “Wah! Wah!” she said excitedly nodding her head up and done. As we explored Fez for the day, all I could think about was the amazing meal we were going to have that night!
We got back to the house after working up quite the appetite to find Saida fixing up some Lamb Tajine, her personal favourite, with a variety of Moroccan salads (some traditional, and some family favourites like a cabbage salad mixed with yogurt and raisins). She showed us the ingredients that she puts into the pressure cooker for stewing and the vareity of vegetables used in the salads. Much of it was local produce unique to Morocco and the surrounding area in particular.
Some of the lessons were definitely lost in translation, but this get together was more about fun anyways.
As soon as Saida’s son Said came in the door he ran into the kitchen to join the party. We snacked on some chocolate drops as we chopped away. Saida would cut up a whole pepper before Jordan could finish dicing up one strip. Jordan tried to spice up some of the dishes with his own seasonings (chocolate drops…) only to have his hand slapped away by Saida. Eventually, she would literally chase Jordan out of the kitchen by releasing the steam of the slow cooker and shooting it at Jordan’s bum. He needed to be booted out for the sake of the meal!
The dinner turned out amazingly!
Spoiled for choice with all of the plates laid out for us, we dug in until our bellies were stuffed to the brim. The tajine was served with potatos wedges that soaked in all the juices from the stew. The sauce was so sweet from the prunes, it was to die for! Saida had some small plates of food with us, but was more than happy to watch us enjoy the meal we “helped” put together.
As we were about to leave for the night, Saida wished us goodbye and continued speaking to Said. Said turned to us and said, “She wants to tell you she does not like seeing people she likes leave.”
We were touched. “You can tell your mother that we are sure we will be back.”
Fez from a New Perspective
Sure enough, we ended up returning another night for dinner and for plenty of afternoon tea breaks with Hmar. Said was happy to see us come back as well, and started asking us about our travels. Jordan and Said quickly connected over football to which Said mentioned there was a game he wanted to watch during our second night in Fez.
Said insisted that the best place to view the game was at a small bar down the street. We still had some time before our meal, so we figured why not tag along?
Said flew down the alleyways of Fez’ medina as we tried to keep. The game had already started and he did not want to miss another second! As we turned another corner we could start to hear chanting and TV’s blaring
The tiny bar was absolutely packed with soccer fanatics, and everyone was buzzing after Chelsea had just scored on the favoured Barcelona. Everyone’s attention was glued to the one TV that hung over the doorway. Travellers clearly did not come into this bar often, but right off the bat, two kind men offered us their seats in the back. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the festivities as the whole place groaned with every miss, and jeered with every foul. It was only a matter of time before the place exploded to celebrate a Barcelona goal…
The more time we spent with the family, the more they opened up their home and lives to us. Because of the hospitality, we were able to experience aspects of daily Moroccan life ourselves!
After hanging out with Said so much Jordan joked that they should go on a spa date to one of the local hammams together. Said it took him up on the offer, and it was a date!
I’ll let him tell you a bit about what went down!
Jordan’s Hammam Experience
Ever since we began planning our trip to Morocco I told Lindsay that I wanted to visit a hammam. A hammam is a communal bathhouse that many Moroccans go to once a week to relax and cleanse in the hotter than hell steam saunas.
The only problem was I knew there was a certain procedure, and order for things, like where to fetch water, and what room to be in when. There are materials you need, and some sanitary precautions you should to take (mainly wash your seat and floor space before using it)… trust me, it’s complicated and you don’t want to be lost in a room full of half-naked people. What I needed was a spa buddy.
Unfortunately, Said BAILED ON ME (if you are reading this, I’m still upset with you), but luckily his father Hmar was willing to go with me and two other houseguests. Hmar was taking us to a male-only hammam he goes to regularly. I tried to follow close behind Hmar as he cut through back alley’s, and ducked under doorways before reaching what looked like a literal hole-in-the-wall. I could not tell you where this place was if I tried, and I could not take any pictures seeing that I was going to a bathhouse and that would be creepy!
In the end, I could not have asked for a cooler experience! Although it was quite hot… very hot in fact.
We stayed inside the hammam bathing and relaxing for nearly an hour. Hmar led us through every step, lathering us with black soap before scrubbing it away vigorously, and even helping us with a good stretch with some of back-breaking yoga poses. As Hmar poured buckets of water over me I could feel my entire body destress as all the dirt washed away. One hour in the steamy saunas was just enough before I would have shrivelled up like a prune. My aching muscles were relieved of all their knots from the road, and my skin has never felt softer in my life.
Moments like this are always so cool, and somewhat funny at the same time. What is just a normal part of someone’s everyday life can be an eye-opening experience for you! Thankfully, we came across a lovely family who was overjoyed to share their culture with us.
So many of the fond memories we have from our trip to Morocco come from the time we spent with Saida and Hmar’s family. We had so many fun experience that would have only been possible by getting to know a local Moroccan family.
Thank you Saida, Hmar, and Said for our wonderful time in Fez. We hope to see you again.
If you too are looking for an incredibly unique, local experience, find them on Airbnb. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, and Facebook @brightintheworld for more stories and photos from our adventures!